New Recruits Episode 11: Nancy Liu Reads Jamie Sharpe

Welcome back to New Recruits! If it’s your first time here, check out Episode 1 for a full description of the series.

Way back in Episode 1, I promised a Jamie Sharpe episode. Now that day is here. Full disclosure, Nancy is not really a poetry newb. We took a writer’s craft class together in high school and she’s been known to read a poem or two now and then. Nancy is a renaissance woman; she plays piano and guitar, she sings beautifully, draws cool pictures, cuts up dead bodies, cultures bacteria, does stuff with yeast that I don’t understand… see how I just stuck “cuts up dead bodies” in the middle there… yeah, she did that for a job.

Last summer, Jamie Sharpe sent me his book Animal Husbandry Today. I had the book with me once when Nancy and I met for frozen yogurt. I showed her some of my favourite poems in the book (“Cirrhosis” and “When Nancy Reagan Recommends the Crab Salad”) and one that I thought she’d particularly like because of her musical background. She did like it, and now she’s going to re-read it for you all.

Here’s Nancy Liu reading “Interview Questions for Nils Luzak, Classical Pianist”:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

The nature of inquisition of this poem seeks no answers. It already contains a story inviting us, the readers, to inquire and wonder at what lies behind them. The poem is really quite lyrical onto itself. It incites us in, attacks our “paternal” relations and crescendos us into the afterlife and gently lulls us, rallentandoing back to the musings of an uneased ear.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Are you Rachmaninoffing / hell from those helpless pedals?”

Why?

The technical difficulties of a Rachmaninoff piece are matched only by their passionate intensity. As a Romantic era composer, you better be raising some hell as you play. Hawt diggity. I love the use of his name as symbolisation of his style then turning it into a verb. It so accurately describes the bold and fiery sensation of his pieces. It’s a challenge to the reader and to the player within the poem. Are you doing justice? Have you done enough to deserve the afterlife served you?

What does this poem make you think of?

That either Nils or the author has daddy issues. Or deep questions of the Christian paternal figure of what awaits them beyond. Music is that veil separating us from permanent silence. Do we rage?

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Nils Luzak. Is there a significance to the name that I’ve missed? What is the etymology? Also, is he a real pianist???

Would you like to understand them?

Yes! It may enrich or even completely change my understanding of the poem!

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I may have encountered something similar before, but I’d definitely need to read some more poetry to give a source. It’s been too long a time!!! Poetry takes many forms. As for how this poem fits into my conception of poetry, it’s not a classic poem, but it’s definitely poetic. :3

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

A little bit of the Dadaist movement in art. Mostly the discontent and the rejection of the divine authority (authoritarian political stance). Also a bit of the irrational peeks through. We are introduced to the poem with wild questions and in the last line, we are left questioning the abject sanity of our interviewer.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Allegro your father eh? My my!

Nancy Liu is a traveller of 11 countries, hobbyist of 13 instruments, past autopsist, current graduate student of neuroscience, and secretly 64 on the inside.

New Recruits Episode 10: Brad Tollman Reads Kathryn Mockler

We have entered the double digits! Check out the description way back in Episode 1 for more information about how this series works.

Brad Tollman is my boyfriend’s good friend from high school whom I have claimed as my own friend. The first time we met was in 2011 when the three of us went out to see a terrible movie. Brad dropped me and Ariel off at my house afterward and then somehow thought we were lost and started mass panic. Weird times. Since then, Brad and I have had many thoughtful discussions about art and music and poetry. He’s been a big supporter of my work and an all around lovely dude. Brad and I both love Joni Mitchell’s music, which is why I chose Kathryn Mockler’s “You Look Like a Puppet” for him to read (also because it’s a cool poem). In the notes at the back of her book The Purpose Pitch, Mockler explains that the poem is “comprised of scrambled lines from Joni Mitchell’s  June 2013 Q interview.”

Brad also has ADHD and at no time has that been more apparent to me than in his answers to the questions below— which were delicious to read because of how he manages to allow certain afterthoughts to expand and contract within each response. Somehow it’s a really good example of non-linear writing and a perfect companion to the “scrambled lines” of Mockler’s poem.

Here’s Brad reading “You Look Like a Puppet” (twice— with several expressive interjections):

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Poetry always really weirds me out? Not always. Not weirds me, per se. But I have a learning disability, so the information from text is always a little lost on me if it isn’t so very explicit. I don’t absorb any of it the first time. I laughed at the German bit though.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

The second read though.. I dunno it seemed profound in a way? In a slight way. I don’t recall the line, something to do with being born the week of death, yeah? And it seemed almost echoed in a way by the last line of the block, something about smokes. Seemed almost suicidal to me, but ironic because of the question of it all. Ironic? I think ironic. The part about pissing where you eat is gross.

Why?

It’s just a really gross thing to say. Maybe in a Frank Zappa kind of way it’s a little bit funny? There’s that word again, ironic. Zappa was good at that sort of thing, though. This just seems vulgar for vulgarity’s sake (but I shouldn’t think that’s quite so, or the intent).

What does this poem make you think of?

I forgot you told me the Joni Mitchell fact, that it was lifted from something to do with her? I thought maybe inspired by her music at the time when you mentioned it to me, but it turns out it was from a Q magazine interview. At any rate, it certainly didn’t remind me of her the first time I read it. It really didn’t make me think of anything. Again, that disconnect when I read and gleaning information. Especially when all the ideas here are so chalky and blocky.

The second time through I had Joni in mind, it made me think a bit of when she was coming up in Toronto in the 60s, but only when the women’s home thing was mentioned. Beyond that… I’m not really sure. There were some very good moments within the poem but I only thought of the interest of it’s ideas and juxtapositions and remarks and so on.

—- Just remembered, it did actually remind me of a few musings I’ve written to myself. I’ve gotten into the habit of having full conversations with myself, I find I can get to the root of something if I can talk it out loud, which I’ve always done, but more so now then before they have been philosophical debates and major life choices (but aren’t all choices a life choice? I wonder). Anyway, it reminded me at times… Rather it felt comfortable and/or fluid to read at times like it’s been fluid to talk with myself.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

None that popped out at the time, or any I can remember. I’m on my phone typing this and I’m afraid if I back out of this webpage I’ll lose everything I’ve typed, so let’s go with my gut on this one. No.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes, I would love to (genuinely meant and not sarcastic)

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I’ve read a few poems before. I dunno, this is a weird question, maybe. I never know what to expect from poetry because it’s all different to me, I’m not quite familiar enough to pick up on the nuances of style, but I’m familiar enough with art to recognize that there is certainly a style to be nuanced. So maybe it’s exactly different from what I would have expected? But then it’s kind of like what Syndrome from The Incredibles said, “once everyone is a Super..! No one will be.” I think maybe that works both ways, existentially. If nothing matters, then by that token everything matters. And if everything matters, so does nothing.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

Disney’s, “The Incredibles,” clearly, lol.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Why Joni Mitchell? Why specifically that interview? Why an interview at all? Why, why, why, I guess. Thanks 😉

Brad Tollman is a musician and an artist. He likes to think so, at least. He works at a Starbucks and kind of enjoys it. The people are cool. The morning shifts are stressful. He’s 25 in April and that scares him a little bit. He hasn’t been recognizing himself in the mirror lately. He needs a haircut and a shave.

New Recruits Episode 9: Norm Solomon Reads Stuart Ross

Check out Episode 1 for info about how this series works.

My grandfather, Norm Solomon, taught me all the dirty limericks I know. When we were younger, my brothers and I used to decorate his bald head with markers and candy and ornaments of all sorts after he fell asleep on our hardwood floor. After my friend Brad (who will read in an upcoming episode) met my grandfather for the first time, he said, “It’s ironic that your grandfather’s name is Norm because he’s definitely not normal.” Norm Solomon is a vodka drinking, kishka barbecuing, joke cracking crooner. Crooner because he has an excellent Sinatra-esque singing voice, and also, as you’ll soon discover, a wonderful reading voice. I knew I wanted to have my grandfather read Stuart Ross. Stuart’s poetry is surreal and funny and not normal in the most wonderful way. When I gave my grandfather a poem called “Beans” from Stuart’s book A Hamburger in a Gallery, I thought it would be a good fit because it’s an absurd little piece and because my grandfather taught me every variation of the “musical fruit” rhyme in existence. So his answers to the questions below surprised me a little. I wasn’t expecting him to find this poem to be particularly dark or depressing. But that’s what I love about this series. I’m learning so much about the interpretability of poetry and how different words and moods and images stand out to different people. So  here’s my grandfather reading “Beans”:

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Sadness and confusion 

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“He laughed because an onion made him cry”

Why?

I never experienced laughing when crying. What a great use for an onion.

What does this poem make you think of?

Despair and coldness

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

CATCHING onion.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Yes, from you kind of. Not really.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Why was it written?


Norm Solomon is 75. He loves traveling and contemporary singers. He also enjoys looking after people in need.

New Recruits Episode 8: Becky LaRue Reads Alice Burdick

Welcome to 8th episode of New Recruits! If you’re new here, check out Episode 1 for more information about how this thing works.

Becky was one of my most brilliant 12th grade students (now she’s just my brilliant friend). Also, Becky is not her real name— she asked me if she could participate in this series anonymously. I teach English in the summer at a private school in Thornhill, Ontario. Becky was the first student in my class on the first day of school this past July. She got to class before I did and I spotted her reading a heavily annotated (sticky notes and pencil marks galore) copy of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. By the end of the semester, after I told her that absolutely you’re allowed to swear in poems, she read her own poem, full of “fuck”s, out loud in front of the whole class. Maybe one of my proudest moments as a teacher. I mean, I was equally proud of the essay she wrote on the Freudian resonances in Hamlet, but poems are more fun.

Have you read Alice Burdick’s Book of Short SentencesBecause this book had me actually yelling out loud to nobody in my empty apartment. Specifically the second last poem in the book. I don’t even want to spoil it, spoil the surprise, but its content and placement had me yelling at nothing and oh my god you have to read it. But read the whole book because it works in sequence and then you get to the end and you’re alone in your apartment yelling “What the fuck, Alice? Where did that come from?” to nobody in particular in the best way possible.

I didn’t give Becky that poem. I gave her “Escaping the landscape,” from the middle of the book. Here she is reading it:

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I thought that the poem really captured the mind of a person who seemed to be bored with the same people he aquatints himself with (both romantically and family/friend wise) and wants to escape the cycle of trite conversations and people.

You refer to the speaker as “he,” did you know that this poem was written by a woman but you perceived the character as male? Or did you just assume the poem was written by a man?

I perceived the character as male: from my observations, most males tend to group emotions into happiness or sadness while most females (I say most because I’m dense to emotions as well), can better categorize their feelings and identify other feelings and it’s less black and white.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Yo-yo describes you, a wide arc / of changeable wide smiles and disintegration.”

Why?

I too feel that people these days don’t dive deep into their emotions and they only show two extreme emotions: extreme happiness and extreme sadness. It allows themselves to discover what they’re really feeling and if they show those two emotions, no one will question them and they are left to themselves.

What does this poem make you think of?

This poem makes me think of myself before I discovered that I too have different emotions. Before November 16 (what I will refer to as my Climax), I only displayed two emotions: happiness and an occasional sadness. Other than that, I didn’t dig deep into my emotions and suppressed all other emotions (which included the suppression of crippling anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts – all later discovered after a series of unfortunate events). This poem of this voice explaining how the landscape blends into the background, it reminded me how I blended my emotions into a black and white area of happiness and sadness (whereas I now know that that is hardly the truth).

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

I have never encountered a poem like this before (even though I love poetry, I don’t dedicate as much time as I’d like to reading it).

Do you have any questions for the poet?

I would like to know if the poet is pondering if other people are blending into the background or has she been the one blending and is criticizing herself.


Becky LaRue is the alias of an 18 year old lady who loves reading. She has recently applied to many universities and she does her best to be happy.

New Recruits Episode 7: Gail Morgenstern Reads David McGimpsey

Episode 7 already? Well, If you’ve missed the previous six, you can figure out what this is all about by reading the description in Episode 1.

Gail is my mother’s friend. She and my mom and a couple of other ladies who have all known each other since high school have made a habit of going out for dinner whenever one of them has a birthday. Gail references one of these dinners in her Q&A so I thought I’d tell you about that up here, on the top half of the page, before you go down to the bottom half. This past summer, Gail and my mother and myself and a few of my friends in my MA program went to my cottage in Halliburton. I did all the cooking because, well I like cooking. Gail is vegan so she opted out of my teriyaki salmon and caprese salad in favour of… lettuce. Ok, that was a lame attempt at a segue into the title of the featured poem. She ate more than lettuce. Here she is reading David McGimpsey’s poem “Lettuce” from his book Asbestos Heights.

David, if you’re reading this, before you read the Q&A you should know that she did choose this poem from a selection of three poems all by different poets, so, I think she did like it. I mean, she liked it enough to pick it.

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

At first I didn’t particularly like the poem but on a second read I found it humorous and interesting. I thought it was inventive to compare college to iceberg lettuce.

Which line of the poem do you like best?

‘blooming in beds of bacon and mayonnaise’

Why?

I found the image of heads of lettuce growing in fattening, cholesterol-laden bacon and mayo as being very vivid and repellent. It also made me think of the iceberg lettuce salad your mother loves to order at The Keg.

What does this poem make you think of?

It made me think of going to college for the first time as well as how much I dislike iceberg lettuce. I find iceberg to be the most useless type of lettuce; it’s like eating water.

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Yes, I don’t know what stamen or anther means.

Would you like to understand them?

Yes, I guess I could check the dictionary.

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Yes, this poem isn’t like any I have experienced. I don’t have a lot of experience with poems as I mostly read them in high school and then never read poems again after finishing school.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

What made you think of writing a poem using the subject of iceberg lettuce?


Gail Morgenstern is a fifty-something mother and analyst working for a large bank in the investigative services department. She enjoys kickboxing, running and weight lifting. She eats a plant-based diet and has very strong opinions about meat and dairy.

New Recruits Episode 6: Judah Izsak Reads Garry Thomas Morse

If you’re new here, check out Episode 1 for more information about this series and how it works. This week, my brother Judah Izsak reads the final section of Garry Thomas Morse’s “The Rent Annals of Billy the Kid” from  After Jack.

From the moment I came up with the idea for this series, I knew I wanted somebody to read Garry Thomas Morse. I also knew that I didn’t want just anybody to read Garry Thomas Morse. I mean, everybody should read Garry’s work, but I needed a perceptive, clever, and feisty newb to read it for my blog. Judah turned seventeen last week. He’s been an outlaw for as long as I’ve known him. I gave him a choice of all of the sections in Garry’s serial poem. He chose this one. That was a month ago. Yesterday I asked him why he chose section ten. He said, “because it was at the bottom” (I texted Judah the poem options, this was the last one I sent and at the bottom of the list). I think that’s as good a reason as any.

“The Rent Annals of Billy the Kid” is my favourite section in After Jack. Here’s Judah reading the last bit of it—slow this time (because the first take was nearly 10 seconds shorter:

15967403_10158108407790014_1693136119_o )

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

I thought it was intended for me, and I thought my sister made it

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Remember when we chewed the phat/ Music of cicadas”

Why?

I remember listening to cicadas on camping trips and seeing them shed, phat seemed like a fitting word

What does this poem make you think of?

The midwest 

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

Phat

Would you like to understand them?

No

Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?

Nope #newrecruit

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Are your referring to the Billy the Kid, or somebody in your life that you refer to as Billy the Kid, or just someone that reminds you of Billy the Kid?


 

Can I just say that the fact that he thought I made this poem is maybe the best inadvertent compliment I’ve ever received.

Judah Izsak is 17. He is unemployed and he likes vintage posters.

New Recruits Episode 5: Marilyn Solomon Reads George Bowering

Happy Wednesday and welcome to the first New Recruits episode of 2017! For more information about this series, check out Episode 1.

Marilyn Solomon is my grandmother, an amateur photographer, and a die hard baseball fan. No really. Look:

11845091_10153467171199566_2341574448281991190_o.jpg

My dad managed to get my grandparents two tickets to a Jays game when they made it to the finals last year. (Finals? Is that what they’re called? My baseball knowledge is limited.) My mom said that when my grandmother found out about the tickets, “she screamed louder than when she found out I was pregnant with you.” Die hard baseball fan.

So, here’s my Bubbie Marilyn reading part 1 of the iconic, pennant shaped, fuzzy book that George Bowering wrote for Jack Spicer: Baseball: a poem in the magic number 9.

 

Q&A

What was your first impression of the poem?

Majestic!

Which line of the poem do you like best?

“Satan was thrown out of the game / for arguing with the officials.”

Why?

Good over evil. Satan should be tossed out of every game. 

What does this poem make you think of?

Creation. 

Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?

“The Nine Muses”

Would you like to understand them?

Yes.

Does this poem remind you of any other piece of art or media?

Star Wars. The poem has a cosmic aura.

Do you have any questions for the poet?

Yes.

 


Marilyn Solomon’s interests are family, travel, current events and friends. Her hobbies are maj, canasta, movies and photos. She is a senior citizen and retired.